Euphoric street parties have become an unprecedented part of normal life in Kabul following Afghanistan’s recent sporting successes in both cricket and football
On 11 September the Afghan national football team won their first ever trophy, after becoming South Asian Champions when they defeated India 2-0 in Kathmandu. Then, on 3 October, following nine wins in 14 matches, Afghanistan’s cricket team beat Kenya to finish second in the World Cricket League (WCL) and qualify for the Cricket World Cup for the first time.
In a country that has suffered decades of conflict and sporting repression, success brings a burgeoning sense of national pride and self-confidence.
“Afghans are hard-working and their talents make them winners,” says Abdul Khaliq Sarabi, who works for Humanitarian Assistance and Facilitating Organisation (HAFO) in Kabul. He believes the passion of returning refugees is behind the upsurge in success. “The young Afghans who played football in Europe made a significant difference in the level of football skill. Now they are playing with the national team and bringing in the skills they learned and the technological advancements they experienced.”
Today, developments on the ground are visible. A new astro pitch in Kabul is booked out weeks in advance. Sports stadiums rise in Panjshir Valley and the capital. Eight racially diverse football teams compete in a new Premier League. And, although money builds infrastructure, passion is the prime motivator of players, who still live on stipends.
In a country where balls are bowled or kicked on every piece of waste ground, the dedication to sport is paying dividends. National success has given the next generation inspiration for the future.